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“I Wish” and “If Only” – Learn to Use These Essential Phrases!

Image representing a student studying English idioms about love

Just as with any other language, English can have lots of depth and complexity, and many different ways of expressing a variety of things.

As we go through our daily lives, we’ll probably come across lots of situations which we would want to be different or change if we could. Sometimes we might regret something that happened in the past – and sometimes we might hope to do things differently in the future!

So how do you express that in English?

These two phrases, “I wish” and “if only” are essential for expressing these feelings. Read on to learn more about how to use them!

Thinking about the past

If you’re describing something that happened in the past that you regret, or would have wanted to be different, then these two phrases can be used to describe what you would have wanted to happen instead.

Let’s take a closer look with some examples:

“I wish I hadn’t eaten all that cake before dinner!”

“If only she had told him the truth – then he wouldn’t have gotten so angry.”

You can use these with both a positive or negative statement – something you would rather have happened, or something you would rather didn’t happen.

To use them, you use the past perfect tense after the phrase.

Thinking about the present

Feeling hopeful about something you might be doing in the future, or hope to do soon? You can also use these phrases in a similar way – to express your desire for the situation or event to be different.

Let’s take a closer look!

“I wish that I had some more money, then I could by all the books on the list.”

“If only the bus would come on time, then I’m sure we wouldn’t be late.”

To use these in this form, you actually use the past simple tense after the phrase, and a modal verb in the second part such as “could”, or “would” to express the possibility of doing something.

Making a complaint

Another way you can use “wish” and “if only” is to make a complaint or statement about something. You can use them to express your feeling of how much you wished the situation or behaviour of someone was different – and using this to express how much you don’t like it!

Let’s take a look at some examples:

“I wish you would learn to be more polite!”

“He wishes she could stop talking so much.”

“If only it would stop raining, then it might feel a bit more like summer!”

To use these phrases in this way, you follow them with a modal verb.

Your turn

These phrases are a great way to add extra depth and creativity to your spoken and written English – you can be quite creative in making ordinary conversation more interesting, and add more personality to it!

To get the hang of them, make sure you practice using them as much as you can. I great way to get familiar with examples is by watching TV or films in English, and looking out for characters using these forms. So get watching and learning!